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Sudden breast refusal and nursing strikes

  • 0-1 Years
  • Feeding and eating
Close Up Of Mother With Sleeping Son 1

Breast refusal is the general term used for when your baby is refusing to be fed by your breast. A ‘nursing strike’ is when a baby who has been breastfeeding suddenly stops. Both breast refusal and nursing strikes can be very upsetting and stressful.

Sudden refusal or nursing strike

A nursing strike is when a baby who has been breastfeeding consistently suddenly stops. It is not the same as weaning. Nursing strikes usually last between 2 to 4 days, however they can last longer.

There are several reasons why your baby may suddenly start to refuse your breast:

    • they are unwell (tummy ache, earache, oral thrush etc.)
    • too little milk
    • too much milk, your baby may be struggling with the flow of milk
    • changes to personal hygiene products (deodorant, soap, perfume etc.) makes you smell different
    • stress
    • major changes to their routine

What to do during a sudden refusal or nursing strike

When your baby is having a nursing strike, you will need to:

Tips and tricks for when your baby suddenly refuses your breast

It can be very stressful when your baby suddenly refuses your breast. It is important that you stay calm during this time.

Try to find out what is bothering your baby. This can help you find a solution or put together a plan to encourage your baby to breastfeed.

Offer your baby your breast when they are sleepy. Some babies will feed when they are sleepy or asleep. This could be helpful for a baby who is uninterested in feeding when awake.

Carry your baby in a sling. If your baby isn’t breastfeeding yet, carrying them in a sling is a great way to help them get comfortable being near the breast.

Feed your baby in different locations. You could change rooms to feed them, sit in the car or walk around. This may encourage your baby to feed.

Start expressing milk before offering your breast. This will start the flow of milk and gives your baby an immediate reward. You can also offer your baby something to suck before offering to nurse so that they’re ready to feed.

If your baby has a sore mouth, you can giving them frozen expressed milk in a clean cloth or muslin. The clean cloth or muslin will prevent injury to your baby's mouth. The frozen expressed milk can help numb and cool their mouths before feeding. This can be especially useful for teething babies.  

Last reviewed: 1 November, 2023


Who can help

If you have any questions or concerns about breastfeeding your baby, a health professional in our team will be able to offer advice and support.

You can Call Us on 0300 029 50 50 or Text Us on 07520 649887 to start a conversation.

Open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm (excluding bank holidays).


Breastfeeding support helplines

If you have a question or concern outside our opening hours, try contacting one of the following helplines which are dedicated to help parents breastfeed. 

National Breastfeeding Helpline: 0300 100 0212, open every day 9.30am to 9.30pm


Association of Breastfeeding Mother: 0300 330 5453, open every day 9.30am to 10.30pm


The breastfeeding network supporter line (in Bengali/Sylheti): 0300 456 2421; open every day 9.30am to 9.30pm


NCT Breastfeeding Line: 0300 330 0771 (option 1), open every day 8.00am to 12.00am


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